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Japanese Stores Post March Gains

Retailers enjoyed sales increases across the board last month as warmer weather and an overall rise in the economy encouraged spending.

TOKYO — Japanese retailers enjoyed sales increases across the board in March, as warming temperatures spurred movement of spring clothing and an overall rise in the economy encouraged spending.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Fast Retailing said Tuesday that same-store sales at its Uniqlo outlets in Japan increased 23.1 percent last month.

Same-store sales increased sharply year on year in March thanks to the “consistently warm weather and strong sales of spring garments including bottoms and AIRism brand spring/summer innerwear,” the company said.

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After four store openings and six closures in March, Fast Retailing currently operates 825 Uniqlo stores in Japan.

Department stores also fared well in March. Isetan Mitsukoshi, Japan’s largest department store operator, reported a 9.4 percent increase in sales at its nine main stores, as compared with the same month last year. Not one individual store fell behind last year’s levels, a rarity for Japanese department stores in recent months. The company’s Shinjuku Isetan flagship, which underwent several months of rolling renovations before its grand opening last month, was particularly successful, with a 16.3 percent sales increase.

Takashimaya saw a 5 percent sales increase at its 18 department stores in Japan. Only one individual store had a drop in sales, with growth at others ranging from 0.6 percent to 9.1 percent.

“A rise in stock prices, which was accompanied by asset gains and the like, attributed to favorable performance by big-ticket items,” Takashimaya said. “And because there were more warm days than most years, sales of spring clothing grew considerably.”

Same-store sales at Hankyu Hanshin department stores rose by 18.3 percent in March, H2O Retailing said. The company’s newly renovated Hankyu Umeda store in Osaka performed especially well, with its sales growing 61.8 percent.

J. Front Retailing reported that same-store sales at its Daimaru and Matsuzakaya department stores increased by 6.6 percent in March. J. Front has consistently been a bright spot among the stagnating Japanese department store business, and last month marks the fifth straight month of sales increases for the retailer.